Mural in Downtown Olympia, Washington
One of my favorite places I've traveled to on this Journey
I have never chosen the straight and narrow path. Some of us want to stay on the path with signs leading the way. But do any of us really get to stay on the path no matter how safe it feels? It seems some of us jump off finding the straight and narrow uncomfortable while others are pushed off, stuck for a time at a crossroads, or lose our way finding a better adventure in the dirt somewhere out there.
Today, I am remembering a time I strayed from the straight and narrow, quite literally. It was the mid 80's. I was twenty-two sitting on a velvet green couch, my friend Melanie sitting near me on a leather chair with an ashtray next to her, her cigarette lit, a glass of wine in hand. The Argentine professional tennis player Gabriela Sabatini grunted on the tv screen, hitting the tennis ball across the net with a power I had never witnessed a woman athlete possess, any woman possess.
During commercial time, I peppered Mel with questions. I wanted to know how it felt to be a lesbian. I knew gay women, but Mel was my first gay woman friend and I wanted to know, really know about her life. I was intrigued. Melanie, five years my senior at least, smiled. With no hesitation, an authenticity and pride I had witnessed in few women during that time (most of the women I knew, the ones I worked with in the office, their dresses, high heels and manner, were a testament to their conformity). Melanie sipping on her wine, spilled out stories of her childhood, stories of "coming out" to her mother, her sexuality, the first woman she fell in love with, the woman she had a crush on now. I remember being so fascinated. So intrigued, by a story that wasn't anything I had ever known before, that I seriously considered going lesbian.
After a couple of experimental trips at attempting to be lesbian. I failed going no further than making out and pissing off the two women that I selfishly threw myself at.
Looking back, I know I was searching. Searching for love. Searching for a new way of being that was so different than the confines of an IBM typewriter, spending 9-5 with married women whose aspirations at the time were having a baby shower or giving one, and dreading meeting business men in suits on blind dates that I knew always ended up going nowhere. I couldn't relate to them and they certainly could not relate to me and my dreams.
Next month, I turn 55.
I don't know where Melanie is. I ran into one of her lovers. The woman she had a crush on and eventually had a relationship with so many years ago. My partner and I bumped into her ex lover at a b and b near where Mel lived in the 80's. Mel lives thousands of miles away now.
My memory of her and our time together watching Gabriela break barriers with her tennis racket remind me of all the people along our paths that show us the trails we can choose or in many ways choose us to veer off the straight and narrow.